Drove to Cong, film place of the famous John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara film; The Quiet Man. Met up with two cousins there. The trip from Westport to Cong, however, was harrowing. The GPS was definitely messing with us Yanks and it sent us via the shortest and most perilous route.
As it is, in Ireland, the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car (actually just the “other” side), and we must drive on the wrong side of the road (actually just the left side). So that makes it immediately confusing, but then add to that a stick-shift, signage in Gaelic, kilometers, (versus miles) and more.
All this, and then we found ourselves driving on roads about the width of our rented Renault - flanked on both sides by stone walls, bushes, and other assorted Irish landscape. Curves, blind turns, hills - and yes, it was 2-way traffic. At one point we encountered a two-story lorry (truck) loaded with logs steaming towards us. Our driver John swerved to the left, the car died, and we all closed our eyes. I am certain I heard laughing as the lorry sped past our little car. We were both stirred and shaken.
We met the Ryan brothers, as mentioned, near Ashford Castle (Cong) and had coffee, Guinness and lunch at a little restaurant, appropriately called Ryans. Salmon, salad, seafood chowder, fish and chips were delivered and devoured at the little brown pub table. Food in Ireland is fresh, fragrant and fulfilling in every way.
Off to the next required stop - a local cemetery where the Grandparents are buried. The cousins provided stories about everyone in there. And I’m certain my husband and his two cousins are related to every single person buried in the plots. The vast majority of the inhabitants lived well into their 80’s and 90’s. Apparently, there must be something good about living a life working the land.
On to the next stop:
Knock. Here is where the Virgin Mary, Joseph and St. John the Evangelical appeared in (maybe 1879) to a random group of people. The apparitions appeared on the gable of the little church for about two hours. Over a dozen people or so saw them and reported and recorded. The incident has been investigated multiple times and is believed to be authentic. Thus, a shrine. It’s quite huge and elaborate. A giant basilica has been built, along with chapels, reconciliation centers, etc. etc. etc. Pope John Paul II said mass there when he visited - back in 1979. It’s certainly a little commercialized, but it’s considered to be a pretty holy place recognizing the BVM. One of the features is Holy Water - fountains upon founains of it -, which supposedly can be healing. Of course, I loaded up about a dozen little bottles. Have to figure out how to get those past the TSA agents.
The countryside, the views, the people, and the adventure – is both comforting and inspiring. The views, as we careen around the top of a steep hill and look over the edge will literally take your breath away – that is, if you still have your eyes open. But the fact that places like this still exist – rugged, untouched, and sometimes unexplainable - will also take your breath away.